Cowboys and girls from around the country will stampede into the area this month for the second-annual LGBT rodeo.
The Liberty Gay Rodeo Association will host its 2009 Stampede July 31-Aug. 2 at Lulu Shriners Rodeo Grounds, 5140 Butler Pike in Plymouth Meeting. The weekend festivities are expected to draw several thousand people.
LGRA last year became the first organization in the northeastern United States to host an LGBT rodeo; previously, Washington, D.C., was the northernmost locale.
Stampede director Jim Gallucci said D.C. will not host its annual rodeo this year, which he speculated could further fuel attendance at the local event.
This year’s lineup is similar to the events staged at the inaugural rodeo, except activities will take place in a different location. Last year’s stampede was held at the Devon Horseshow grounds, but Gallucci said event organizers wanted to take the rodeo in a different direction this year.
“Devon is a beautiful place, but we just wanted to try someplace a little different,” Gallucci said. “Shriners has been so accommodating to us. They’ve accepted us with open arms and have helped us out in so many ways.”
Gallucci said the management at the arena will provide security free of charge and offered rodeo officials a fair deal for the space, which he described as bringing the real flavor of the West to the East Coast.
“It’s a real rodeo arena, something you’d think you wouldn’t see outside of Nebraska or Arizona,” he said. “It’s a great location.”
Before participants head to the rodeo, they’ll have a chance to strap on their dancing shoes for the Independence Ball, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. July 31 in the Millennium Ball Room at the Lowes Hotel, 1200 Market St., the host hotel for the weekend’s events. The group will also host the Freedom Ball from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. the following night at the hotel.
“We’ve found that so many people on the East Coast really like to dance, sometimes even more so than compete in the events, so we wanted to make this a big part of the weekend,” Gallucci said.
Country singer James Allen Clark will perform during the Aug. 1 dance, as well as throughout the rodeo events, which will run from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. that Saturday and Sunday.
There will be more than a dozen rodeo competitions on both days that will be broken down into roughstock, horse, timed and camp events. Gallucci said there will also be a number of children’s events, as the rodeo is usually a big draw for LGBT and ally parents with children.
During the competition, spectators can also visit vendor and food market, which will include several DJs and a dancing area.
Once competition closes, winners in each event will receive the traditional trophy buckle, each sponsored by a different organization or individual, in an awards ceremony Sunday, 8-11 p.m., at the hotel.
Several local organizations will also receive their own prizes from stampede organizers in the form of donations: Some of the funding generated through the event will be dispersed to the William Way LGBT Community Center, Calcutta House, Mountain Meadow, the National Adoption Center and Shadow Equestrian.
Chris Garten, LGRA marketing director, said the stampede will highlight the strengths of the local LGBT population and its many community organizations for a vast national audience.
“What we’re really looking to do is draw the community together to the Philadelphia area, and in the process we can draw attention to these charities as well,” he said. “It gives the local area the chance to have some national exposure as well as helps with the financial support that we look to provide to these organizations. It’s a very exciting opportunity for the Philadelphia gay community and even helps us branch out to other communities.”
Gallucci said the stampede will bring together a diverse mix of community members and allies for a weekend in which socializing is just as important as competing.
“It’s open to everybody, whether you’re gay, lesbian, straight, with a family and kids or single,” he said. “It’s a lot of friendly, fun competition, but also a way to meet people without having to go out to a bar. There’s a real sense of community.”
Admission to each day of the rodeo is $20, as are tickets to the dances. A weekend package for all of the events is $70.
For more information on the stampede or to purchase tickets, visit www.libertygra.org.